Traditional fairy tales are the bread and butter of many young readers' diet. Passed down from parents to children over many generations, they are the stories that stick with us as we grow and are so embedded in the western European culture that many of us can quote at least one refrain from a favourite tale and would probably struggle to imagine a childhood without them.
As our society becomes more multicultural I wonder whether stories from other cultures are becoming more widely known in schools? Certainly when I've approached publishers about exploring traditional tales from other cultures, I've generally been met with the "there's not a big enough market," sort of comment, which I find rather disappointing and hard to believe.
Anyway, as far as European tales go, many authors enjoy playing about with these stories and re-writing them with a modern twist or turning things upside down and back to front. The children I work with in schools LOVE messing about in the fairy tale world and creating crazy, ridiculous stories of their own. It's great fun and anything is possible when you inhabit a world of fire-breathing dragons and hungry talking bears.
I've written a few myself - all published by Nosy Crow, each of which challenges some aspect of the traditional fairy tale world. In my books I like to subvert traditionally gender-specific roles and challenge the central premise of many fairy tales that princesses are pathetic and need rescuing and that anything different is bad and must be thwarted as quickly as possible. My princesses do not dream of marriage and the happy ever after. They are brave and feisty and independent - as any self-respecting girl should be!
Joanne Norland, of Mumswrite, has written a very interesting blog about the emergence of fractured fairy tales in children's literature. She interviews me, Jonathan Emmett and Leigh Hodgkinson in a very thought-provoking article. Have a read of it here.
For anyone who is interested in such things, it's also very enlightening to read the original versions of these stories, recorded by the Grimm Brothers and others. Many are very different to the stories we know today and FAR more gruesome!
So if you have some spare time, pick up a fairy tale and have a go and re-writing it yourself!